RIPON – Trustee Donna Parks initially supported Ripon Unified’s proposed Dual Immersion Spanish/English language program in kindergarten.
She flipped her vote at Monday’s school board meeting after a recent visit to Park View Elementary School.
“When I met with the teachers, I heard many say they were fatigued from their overall workload,” Parks said.
Her vote proved to be difference as the board opted 3-2 to not implement the voluntary plan as presented.
Park’s colleague, Jack DeLiddo, who was absent when the board split 2-2 on Dual Immersion at the recent special meeting, came out in support of the voluntary plan that would have been initiated as a four-year pilot program. He was thought to be the swing vote.
“This (program) was a breath of fresh air,” said DeLiddo, who noted that the proposal outside of budget restraints was an opportunity for RUSD.
He and Kit Oase both favored this second language class model that would have offered 50 percent instructions in English and the second language, starting with one kindergarten class.
Jesse Calvo, who is the district’s coordinator of English learner services, said that 32 parents along with many other supporters were in favor of the bi-literate – or the ability to read and write in two languages – proposal.
“They chose to be a silent party (at the special meeting),” he added. “They were afraid to speak up in fear of a backlash.”
Based on some studies, Calvo, who also mentioned that the required staff being already in place at the school site, said that Dual Immersion could benefit youngsters academically. “Students who were proficient in reading and writing in two or more languages scored much higher in tests,” he said.
Trustee Ernie Tyhurst, however, indicated that the program just wasn’t right for right now. “You need strong community support and I haven’t seen it,” he said.
Chantha Mikami agreed. A Park View parent of a multi-cultural background, she came out against Dual immersion.
“The majority of the parents I talked to were against it, too,” she said. “They don’t want to lose resources from one program (to go to this program).”
Magarito Diaz told the board that his parents were first generation Mexican-Americans and was part of the bilingual education programs of the 1970s.
Looking back, he believed it was a “failed experiment.”
Diaz added: “I think it’s best to put English learners in regular classes and let them learn to speak English.”
Jeff Daley noticed that the proposal left folks with more questions rather than answers.
Chad Husky provided the online video on the Ripon Unified website of the successful Dual Immersion program in Utah. “I’m not opposed to (the proposal) but it has to be done right,” he said.
Board president Mike Fisher applauded his colleagues for their research efforts.
“It’s been a very valuable process based on the time and effort,” he said. “We looked for ways to improve our schools.”
Parks made the tough decision based on her recent site visit. She noticed teachers trying to do their best given their resources after several years of budget cuts while handling 34 students per class.
“I didn’t know if it would have been exacerbating (for teachers) to handle more uncertainties for right now,” Parks said. “When you’re trying to move forward, I’m wondering do we do so by adding changes or do we wait for the dust to settle?”
Trustees could revisit Dual Immersion plan at a later date. But some changes would be necessary.
“It needs to be better defined and include kindergarten through 12th grade so students don’t lose those skills from their earlier years,” Tyhurst said. “It needs to be part of an overall plan.”